Saturday, June 23, 2012

Christ and Our Callings, Part 3

As I think about my calling in life, I have to grapple with two things.  First, who's doing the calling?  Who is the one calling me?  It's not myself.  Callings cannot come from within.  (But how often we live as though they did!  We hark to Socrates's cry: "Know thyself!")  It is God who is calling me to belong to him and to live under his reign--the reign of his Son Jesus--in every breath.

But I also wrestle with the order or priority of my callings, of the roles and responsibilities I've been given.  Even if not chronologically derived, my foremost commitment is to my wife as her husband.  I've entered into a covenant with her to hold fast to her until death parts us.  Beyond that, I'm now a father.  Those are my primary callings.  Only after that am I a science teacher/coach/whatever.  I suppose a good glue holding all those other callings together is the call to be part of Christ's body (Romans 1:6-7).  Which just gets me back to the first calling in the first place.  (See "Christ and Our Callings, Part 1.")

In Philippians 3:12-16, Paul sets up a paradox that surrounds the Christian life.
12 Not that I have already obtained this [becoming like Christ, vv. 10-11] or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
Paul somehow rests content in all that Christ is for him and all who is in Christ's hands.  "Christ Jesus has made me his own."  Because his righteousness is that of Jesus and comes through faith, not his perfection in good deeds or service (v. 9), he knows his life and identity are secure.  But at the same time, he knows Christ has grasped him for the sake of "the upward call of God."  As a result he presses upward, never resting on his laurels or living out of his past, but always pushing to enjoy and love and serve Jesus more and more.  

Still, Paul closes with an urge to "hold true to what we have attained."  That is, while we should strive to grow in our knowledge and service and ever press on in the Christian life, we should also make sure we're living faithfully within the callings and circumstances and knowledge we have at the present.

Am I content with being a husband and father?  Is this enough?  Is it enough for me to keep living faithfully before God in my present situation, even if he doesn't call me elsewhere (see also 1 Corinthians 7:17-24)?  Am I content with the knowledge of God and of his Word which he has given me, and am I honestly trying to live my entire life in accord with what I already know?  Ha!  Isn't it true that our head knowledge always outpaces our practical application of it in our lives?  That our theologies on paper look far better than what shows up in the flesh?  Or do I not believe that God can use me for his glory and my joy where I already am?  With  the skills and knowledge I have?  Do I need something more?  Can I honestly say of Jesus, along with William Guthrie, "Less would not satisfy, and more could not be desired"?*

I know that progress and increasing faithfulness in my callings is good.  And if progress in becoming a better husband/dad/teacher--and ultimately a more faithful disciple of Jesus--means changing some aspect of my life and situation, then maybe that's necessary and good.  Maybe being faithful to the gifts God has given me will mean making hard choices and stepping into new territories.  But progress and pursuit and change will fail if I don't first see that I'm already seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:6), and that all I'm doing in this life is becoming more of the person Jesus has already recreated me to be (Ephesians 2:8-10).  Which is simply to say, becoming someone who knows him more and more each day, in every event, choice, and circumstance.  

*Quoted in Donald Macleod, A Faith To Live By (Christian Focus, 2010), pp. 170-171.

No comments: